What Is a Trauma-Informed School?

Traumatic stress can arise from a variety of sources: bullying at school, dramatic weather events, school shootings — even the day-to-day exposure to events such as divorce or homelessness. Children and adults can be affected by traumatic stress. Having the tools to manage traumatic stress empowers the members of the school community.

In a trauma-informed school, the adults in the school community are prepared to recognize and respond to those who have been impacted by traumatic stress. Those adults include administrators, teachers, staff, and parents. In addition, students are provided with clear expectations and communication strategies to guide them through stressful situations. The goal is to not only provide tools to cope with extreme situations but to create an underlying culture of respect and support.

FACT: One out of every four children attending school has been exposed to a traumatic event that can affect learning and/or behavior.

—NCTSN Child Trauma Toolkit for Educators

Components of a Trauma-Informed School

Becoming a trauma-informed school requires a layered approach to create an environment with clear behavior expectations for everyone, open communication, and sensitivity to the feelings and emotions of others.

  Hear Joshua Kaufman describe the components of a trauma-informed school.

There are many ways to weave trauma-informed approaches into the fabric of schools, including strategic planning by administrators, staff training, and direct intervention with traumatized students. To move toward a trauma-informed school environment, it is important to build knowledge and communication in these areas:

Impact of Trauma on Students

Trauma Services in Schools

Threat Assessment

Student Behavior

Secondary Traumatic Stress

Bullying and Cyberbullying


Psychological First Aid—Listen, Protect, Connect (PFA—LPC) is a five-step crisis response strategy designed to reduce the initial distress of students or adults and to help them return to school, stay in school, and resume their teaching and learning. PFA—LPC is an important resource for trauma-informed schools.